There’s been no end of people claiming to have had their ideas ripped off and unsurprisingly its always for multi million pound box office earners and never for flops or critically or commercially derided films. In fact our Editor had a go claiming that the idea of Godzilla stomping all over Tokyo was ripped off from him when, in his usual drunken stupor, he tripped and flattened a 10,000 piece recreation of the city at Legoland. Rather than being awarded a huge sum of cash he found himself at the local Accident & Emergency having awkward shaped Lego bricks removed from ungodly areas about his person. But we digress because this week ended a court battle over the authorship of the Stephen Frears directed Florence Foster Jenkins between the film’s writer Nicholas Martin and his former partner, opera singer Julia Kogan who were in a relationship during the early development of the script.
Kogan sued Martin and the film’s production companies, Pathe and Qwerty, claiming that she came up with the idea for the film and had made significant contributions to the plot, characters and storylines, and went on to claim that she had written significant parts of the text herself.
Understandably Martin, a highly regarded screenwriter with credits that included TV hits Dalziel and Pascoe, Between the Lines & Soldier, Soldier, was having none of it and issued Court proceedings asking the Court for a declaration that he was the sole author of the screenplay. He won. The Court ruled in his favour and the Judge, Mr Justice Richard Hacon, said Kogan was not entitled to a writing credit or to any share of Martin’s income.
He stated that there was no evidence to support her claims, adding that her contributions “never rose above… providing useful jargon along with helpful criticism and some minor plot suggestions” (which Martin acknowledged). He said that “taken together they were not sufficient to qualify Ms Kogan as a joint author… Mr Martin was the sole author”.
Kogan’s barrister Simon Malynicz QC said she “brought an insider’s view of how opera singers perform and rehearse,” and added “terminology that was used hilariously from the opera world”, as well as “a theme of ‘loveliness’” to the film.
After the case Nicolas Martin said: “This is a very fair ruling and an important one for writers. I have always acknowledged that Julia was a great support when we were together, and contributed helpful input on the world of opera, but she did not write this script with me. I can now put this behind me and get back to work.”
His lawyer was the first to admit that few of these cases ever get to court and that the case was likely to become a stated case for future claims.
Consequently our Editor has decided not to proceed with any claims for writing Jaws, Avatar, Titanic, Star Wars, all the Marvel films and any film in the next thirty years that make millions of dollars (‘You’re fired!‘ – Ed)…….